Long before there was a Universal Declaration on Human Rights on December 10, 1948, the provisions of which have yet to be fostered by all citizens of the world, a political force came onto the world stage specifically to protect the rights and aspirations of the Armenian people—the Armenian Revolutionary Federation.
Borne out of the need to protect the fast deteriorating living conditions of the Armenian people on both the Eastern and Western theaters, the ARF took responsibility for not just the socio-economic well-being of the Armenian people, but also its rights as a national unit within a world marred by injustice, genocide and oppression.
Last weekend, here in California, a series of events marking the ARF’s 120th anniversary probed its role in history, its contributions to society and its mission for the future. These events also assessed the challenges confronting the party in the political arena, as the ARF continues to become a presence in 30 countries around the world, and celebrated its accomplishments and legacy it has created by remaining a popular force in the fight for justice and the Armenian Cause.
Universal in its ideology, the Founders of the ARF—Rostom, Kristapor, Zavarian—each embodied what would later encompass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and brought together forces and people for the specific mandate of protecting the rights and aspirations of a nation oppressed, divided, dispersed and in danger.
120 years later that ideology still guides a party that has returned to the homeland after decades of exile and has become part of the fabric of a new independent Armenian national struggle with challenges, which largely stem from the ongoing refusal by those in power to acknowledge and adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
With drive and commitment and the agility to tackle obstacles of mammoth proportions, the ARF has been able to lead the way in the pursuit of a better tomorrow for all Armenians. The ARF has taken lessons of its experiences in defending the lives of Armenians during the Genocide, creating the first modern-day independent republic, building communities and preserving our national identity in the Diaspora, and more recently fighting a liberation war in Karabakh and for basic principles in Armenia.
In the last two years alone, the guiding principles of the ARF’s ideology and mission, mobilized an entire nation against the dangerous Armenia-Turkey protocols and created a mass movement in the homeland and the Diaspora, revitalizing Armenians’ struggle against injustice and oppression. By sounding the alarm about Turkey’s continued duplicity and denial, as well as Azerbaijan increasing war threats, the ARF, and its community of affiliate organizations and political forces, marshaled the entire nation to safeguard our national security and call for historical justice and self-determination.
However, the dangers still loom and dark clouds have not waned over our nation. Foreign powers continue to gnaw at our national interests by ignoring the right to self-determination of the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, who on December 10, 2008 went back to polling booths and overwhelmingly reiterated their resolve in a Constitutional Referendum. Due to political expediency, the same foreign powers refuse to adhere to the Universal Declaration of Human rights when they refuse to recognize the Armenian Genocide and utilize this act of man’s inhumanity to man as a political pawn to advance their interests. Individuals, whose greed and lust propelled them to loot Armenia’s national coffers have create an oligarchy that oppresses the basic social and human rights of their citizens.
The immediacy of these realities make the ARF as relevant as it was 120 years ago and the role it has to play as vital as ever. The more complex the challenge the greater is the ARF’s resolve to stop at nothing to protect and advance the national aspirations of the Armenian people based on the sacred principles of justice and human rights.